And the answer: Liechtenstein.
The world’s sixth smallest country, Liechtenstein lies entirely within the mountainous Alpine region. Comprised of just 62 square miles of land between Switzerland and Austria, the country houses fewer than 40,000 citizens. It is nearly 8 times smaller than California’s Los Angeles, but is one of the richest countries in the world.
Nestled between Switzerland and Austria, Liechtenstein is one of the world’s smallest nations located in one of the world’s most picturesque locations. Without an airport or coastline, the entire country lies at or above 1,400 feet elevation. Despite the fact that this mountainous country may be the second-least visited tourist destination in Europe, its reputation precedes it as a financially prosperous, peaceful, and welcoming nation. Today, August 15th, the nation celebrates its National Day of Liechtenstein in style, as the Prince of Liechtenstein rings in the holiday with an annual invitation to wine and cheese at the stunning Vaduz Castle.
The history of Liechtenstein as a sovereign nation dates back to the 18th century, when it was established as the “Imperial Principality of Liechtenstein.” Yet, civilization along this region of the Rhine valley dates back much further— in fact, political identity came to the territory as early as 814, with the formation of the subcountry of Lower Rhætia. Since 1434, Liechtenstein's borders have remained unchanged, as the Rhine was used to distinguish the border between the Holy Roman Empire and Switzerland.
Did you know?
On August 5, 1940, the government of the Principality of Liechtenstein officially declared August 15 to be the country's national holiday. The ruling prince at the time, Prince Franz Josef II, was born on August 16, which gave weight to the celebration on the chosen date. Just ten days later, the National Day of Lichtenstein was celebrated for the first time.
Interestingly, the majority of Lichtenstein’s economy is based upon the dental industry. While it may seem unlikely, the GDP of this small nation is greatly impacted by its most affluent citizen: Christoph Zeller. After spending 13 years as the CEO of dental products at a company called Ivoclar Vivadent—located in the second-largest municipality in Lichtenstein—Zeller aided the growth of the nation’s dental-implant exports so much that the industry now produces 20% of the world’s false teeth. What’s more: Zeller himself is worth half of the entire country’s GDP, at a whopping $3.1 billion.
At one point, the nation of Liechtenstein was available to rent for an evening! For the small price of $10,000, any individual could purportedly earn accommodation for 150 guests, customized street signs, a symbolic key to the state, a wine tasting with Prince Hans-Adam II, and your own temporary currency. Although the scheme was later revealed to be the actions of a marketing firm, no one explored the deal except for rapper Snoop Dogg in 2010. Sadly, his offer was refused (although, I’d certainly pay to see a “Snoop Dogg street”).
Learn more about Lichtenstein here.